From panic:

To the Presence of Peace


Amelia had been attending a weekly meditation group for a year, but up to this point had never said anything during the sessions. Then, as we were leaving one day, she shared something of her journey.

“I have a daughter who is two,” she began, “and few months before she was born, my doctor told me I have a degenerative disease that can’t be cured, but only managed.

“The first year after the diagnosis was absolute hell. I would look at my daughter and feel a rush of love I couldn’t have imagined before she was born. And then moments later I would be hit by a wave of sadness and fear.

“Sometimes I wanted to just collapse on the floor and cry until I melted away to nothing. Sometimes I felt so desperate I could have thrown myself through a window. I would tell myself that I’d let my beautiful girl down, that I’d let my husband down, that I was a failure. I even felt guilty and a failure for feeling guilty and a failure. And when I first started coming to these meditation sessions there were plenty of moments when I wanted to shout at you!

“Then,” she continued, “after coming to the group for six months and trying to practice every day something clicked, or began to click.

“Trying to get rid of my sadness and fear clearly wasn’t working. They didn’t appear to be in any hurry to leave and the constant struggle was wearing me down.”

“So, I decided I might as well try what I’d been hearing over and over in the meditation group. Instead of struggling with my feelings, I started to let them be present if they happened to be present. Now when they show up, I don’t ignore them or fight them or beat myself up anymore. I just turn my attention to saying my prayer word and following my breath.

“I’m learning to sit quietly with my feelings. I’m learning to make them my place of practice.

Amelia was quiet for a few minutes, then said, “I don’t know if my sadness and fear will go away any time soon. But I know that as soon as I stopped struggling, my relationship with them began to change. I started to feel hope. And I began to sense a place of peace and freedom that the pain will never be able to touch.”

Just before we parted, Amelia asked if I’d like to know what this place of peace and freedom was like for her. I nodded and she said, “Presence.”

Like this young mother, we can learn a new way to relate to our difficult thoughts and feelings. We can come to appreciate the important role they play in helping us realise the extraordinary truth of who we are.

When we first begin to meditate, we learn how to take refuge in the prayer word and the breath. We practice meeting our thoughts and feelings with stillness and silence, without commentary, without getting entangled in them.

As we learn to be still and silent, a deeper aspect of ourselves discloses itself like a spring rising up and gently permeating our consciousness.

Amelia discovered a place of inner stability. She came to see that all her feelings and all the emotional noise they trigger are like waves on the surface of a depthless depth of peace. She began to meet her life in the light of this peace.

Pain will continue to be a feature of our days and we will continue to struggle with the mental games we play (this is simply the human condition). But that which sees pain, which sees the games we play, is free of them.

That which sees is always free of what it sees.

Even to glimpse this is to share in the freedom of the glory of God’s children[1], a blossoming of awareness like a sunrise in the mind.

[1] Romans 8:21.

School of Contemplative Life
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